Friday, August 25, 2017

Taking Shape Breaks Ground in Port au Prince Haiti

It was just a year ago I shadowed a friend and colleague of mine on a mission trip to Haiti. Katie is an extraordinary human being, with a heart to give back on all levels. She is a TED talk presenter, owner of a dance school, executive director of a global non-profit, and in her spare time is building a school in Uganda. I had my own vision of building a performing arts school in a third world country and my goal for that trip was to learn from her in expanding our non-profit organization, Taking Shape.

I didn't quite know what to expect in this country that was still reeling from a devastating earthquake of 2010.  We visited Lephare, a small orphanage where we planned to bring some joy by conducting games and singing and dancing. The dismal facility had a rusty, steel gate that served to protect the precious lives within. When we entered, our hearts were immediately warmed as a flood of smiling, excited children greeted us. We were witness to resilience, love, energy, and respect. I had found the location to bring my vision to fruition.

One of the missions of Taking Shape is to identify and develop young leaders. Our goal is to help them live a life of purpose and servant leadership for their communities, surrounding areas, and the world. Immediately, I could identify young leaders in this orphanage and knew this would be the perfect place to build a performing arts school and young leadership facility. Now, one year later, we are seeing this vision become a reality with our August groundbreaking. I want to express my profound gratitude for each and every one of you who have helped us reach this milestone.

Work includes an expansion of rooms including bedrooms and bathrooms for the 23 residents. We will continue on to build a community school in conjunction with the project so other children in the area can benefit. Things are happening quickly. We will begin performing arts mission camps in the summer of 2018.
I often get asked why we are helping children in another country when there is so much to be done in our own communities. Our goal is to grow young leaders Here, Near and Far. This project will not only help children in Haiti but will provide exceptional leadership opportunities for our own STAR leaders from our local program. They will get the opportunity to serve on a global level by registering to teach at these camps in Haiti next summer.

I was moved by how eager these Haitian children were to learn. They don't take anything for granted. They have deep faith, hope, and an appreciation for education. They take care of each other. I have witnessed how they are already leaders in their own community. With your ongoing help, we will continue to answer the call in partnering with Pastor Jean of Lephare Orphanage as we help them expand their school and facility. Taking Shape will also continue to work on our three platforms; Here, Near and Far, as we continue to make differences in the lives of children through youth leadership.

Help us continue our mission to raise young leaders Here, Near and Far
by donating here today!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Day 5 - Haiti Camp Finishes with a Bang!

Haiti Camp Finishes with a Bang!

Today we completed our final day of our Taking Shape/Cepras summer camp combining the children associated with the Cepras organization and the children of Lephare orphanage. What a week we have had! Learning, growing, dancing, singing and meeting new friends!

Today we finished with a performance of all of the dances, games  and songs we have learned this week.  It was hard to say goodbye especially to all of the children that touched us in so many ways. Despite the bitter sweet goodbyes, Taking Shape is ecstatic to announce that we have partnered with the Cepras organization of Haiti to conduct our Taking Shape camps annually. Look for our mission camp registration and announced dates to be available September, 1.

.A huge thank you to Marcella Gibbs, Benson Jean and Emmanuel Pierre of Cepras who allowed this camp to happen! What experience it was for our team of 3….. Ms Beana, Mr Sam and Ms Tracey. We are looking forward to opening up our 2018 summer Haiti mission camps with a larger team of Taking Shape STAR leaders and dance studio owners! Until next year…..!
Au Revoir!!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Day 4 - Fish are a hit!

Today was the last full day of camp, tomorrow we finish up with a performance and celebration with the children of Cepras and Lephare orphanage.. Today’s big hit was creating a wall of rainbow fish!  Cepras President Benson read the bible story of the loaves and the fishes. The children made a wall of beautiful fish using weaving and construction paper. Very creative!

We had several new dances and games that we introduced to the campers such as the Macarena, Limbo and Duck Duck Goose. Games are a huge hit with this bunch!

After day 4 it has been so cool to see the kids of Cepras and Lephare orphanage become friends and establish relationships. They have shared a common experience and have formed some wonderful friendships along the way!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Day 3 - August 2017 Mission Camp Trip

Another full day at the Cepras Camp! Today we arrived at the camp with 23 Lephare orphanage kids and a 9 month baby in the Tap Tap (another name for Taxi but it is a short bed Toyota truck painted in vibrant colors). We met up with the remaining children attending the Cepras camp at the CMAS school where the camp is being held.  

Such a variety of ages from a 9 month old to 24 year old boys and girls coming to camp to learn, grow as leaders and make friends. 

Today our campers learned some American favorites; The Chicken Dance, YMCA and the Wobble. We also joined both ages together for a Cotton Eye Joe production number. Yee haa! 

Musical chairs, public speaking using a microphone and several crafts and art contests throughout the day!
Benson the President of Cepras conducted a very creative bible skit focusing on the story of the prodigal son. Haitian children are quite entertaining and great actors! 

What an experience this has been so far! Haitian children are so similar to Americans in that they are like sponges, they want to learn. They love to play and they take care of each other. I have seen our leadership team grow as young leaders themselves as they instruct activities, games, songs and lessons to children that don’t speak the same language. Leading others in example rather than words! 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Day 2 - August 2017 Mission Camp Trip

Two different tribes of children joined together today for their first day of our Taking Shape Leadership Camp. Twenty two children from the Lephare orphanage and twenty five children from CEPRAS organization came together for a day of leadership, dance, games, crafts and bible skits. What a day it was! 

Taking Shape team leaders Savanah Wozny and Sam Lock lead outdoor activities of soccer, dodgeball, relay races and hip hop dance. Dance and sports are universal! Even though there certainly was a language barrier, when the music is on or you give these kids a ball we all speak the same language.

Leadership activities were a big hit with our campers! We worked on public speaking and made purpose posters highlighting what was important to each child. We discussed what our goals are and what everyone wanted to be when they grew up. Several future doctors, nurses and engineers are going to be running around here in Haiti in the years to come! 

The story of Noah’s Arc was the favorite as we put together bible skits for our final day! 

We continue on with our mission of leaders raising leaders as we head into day 2 of our Taking Shape leadership camp……. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Day 1 - August 2017 Mission Camp Trip

Today our Taking Shape Team arrive in Port-au-Prince Haiti for our first mission camp trip. We would like to give a BIG thank you to all of those that donated supplies for our dance, sports and leadership camps. Our suitcases were loaded with so much love from our community and our team is now fully equipped to provide a great experience for the students here in Haiti. Our team is looking forward to a week of growth and service with some amazing children!

Keep up with us on our  taking shape FB page this week as we post of our camp!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Gearing up for our first Haitian Mission Trip..

In just one year since the launch of Taking Shape we have seen such a huge growth in leadership and community outreach in our foundation. Next week, our Taking Shape team will travel to Port au Prince, Haiti to teach the first STAR leadership camp to the children of CMAS Haitian school and Lephare orphanage. The camp will be a 5 day camp serving over 50 children ages 6 and older. The camp is focused on dance, performing arts, sporting activities and the introduction of the STAR leadership program to children of Haiti. Our mission is to develop young leaders who make a difference in their communities and world by growing other leaders leading a life of purpose.

Taking Shape Executive Director, Tracey Wozny quotes, “This is the first mission leadership camp that we have organized on the global front.  Our goal is to establish annual summer leadership camps where STAR leaders from other dance studios, their teachers, directors and studio owners can come share their love of dance, performing arts and their passion to grow young leaders globally. It is an exciting time in our quest to make differences in lives of others Here, Near and Far! ”

Taking Shape will be opening registration for our 2018 Haiti leadership and performing arts camps on September, 1. Updates will be posted on our website at and through our facebook pages.

The Taking Shape mission team will be in Port au Prince Haiti from July 31-August 6. We are needing the following items for our mission camps for those that would like to donate, please click here. Our drop off times are as follows (if you are in need of a different time please contact us at

1018 E 10th St, Carrollton, MO (Shapes Dance & Acro Studio)

Monday, July 24th from 4:30-6:30pm
Wednesday, July 26th from 4:30-6:30pm

14 N Jefferson St, Marshall, MO (Shapes Dance & Acro Studio)

Tuesday, July 25th from 2:30-7:00pm
Wednesday, July 26th from 5:30-6:30pm

106 Wollard Blvd, Richmond, MO (Shapes Dance & Acro Studio)

Tuesday, July 25th from 3:30-6:30pm

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Ripple Effect

IMG_1385.JPGLeadership is a ripple effect! I got to witness this with my own eyes last Saturday as I saw Taking Shape STAR leaders organize a community outreach event at our studio with a close partnership we have on our NEAR platform with ICE Dance studios.

IMG_1366.JPGICE Dance studios is a non profit dance studio in inner Kansas City directed by Isha Williams. Her passion to teach and inspire young dancers beyond just the dance studio matches the same culture and vision we have in our leadership program with Taking Shape.

In the past several years our STAR leaders have developed a partnership with the students of ICE Dance Studios and traveled to their studio in Kansas City to teach several acrobatic and stunting master classes . These master classes were taught by our STAR leaders with the intention of sharing their talents with others, developing leadership qualities through community outreach projects, but more importantly establishing relationships and friendships with other dancers outside of our small little comfort zone in rural Missouri.  

This year in hopes to continue this growth of leadership in our Taking Shape STAR program, our students invited ICE Dance Studio to come to our hometown and experience a workshop of aerial silks, trampoline, tumbling and leadership activities.

Wow! What an experience it was to sit back and watch! STAR leaders took ownership of the event. They not only took pride in the event by preparing the studio for their visitors but they organized and carried out all of the activities from beginning to end from introductions, to teaching rotations, to leadership games and a pizza party, even cleaning up! . It was so neat to watch leadership in true fashion from our young STAR leaders and the friendships they developed by sharing their passion!

I truly believe that leadership is not something easily achieved. Some kids are born natural leaders. Others struggle with confidence and correct tools needed to be successful in leadership roles. What I do know is this…….. Children are sponges and if given opportunities and put in situations where they are exposed to values, character, leadership opportunities, they rise to the occasion.

IMG_1369.JPGSetting a stage for a lifetime of positive and impactful opportunities can only create a ripple effect of leadership to others. It starts in a small corner and ripples throughout this generation. This smart, intelligent, purpose driven generation that will willingly follow a path to successful leadership if given the direction.

We are looking forward to being the catalyst for this ripple effect as we partner with others Here, Near and Far to create young leaders of the next generation.

Visit us on

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Taking Shape partners in Port au Prince, Haiti with FAR community outreach program

Taking Shape devoted December to the month of “Giving” as the focus for our STAR leadership program. In the month of December, Taking Shape STAR program spread their love for giving Here in our local communities by assisting with Common Good Natural Living painting party with their residents. Our STAR leaders of the Near platform volunteered in the Greater Kansas City area with the Episcopal Community Services feeding the homeless . To top off the month of December, I returned to Port au Prince, Haiti to continue the development of a partnership with LaPhare orphanage in our mission to impact the lives of others through our Far outreach programs.  

During my August 2016 mission trip to Haiti, I visited a small orphanage and school called LaPhare. LaPhare is home to 23 children and overseen by their Pastor, Jean Dieugrand. Pastor Jean, and his wife provide a very loving and safe environment for each and every child. When I met Pastor Jean in August, I was utterly taken back by his wholehearted faith and leadership within his orphanage. My heart was struck by his renowned ability to lead the community and children in his orphanage; despite lack of resources and income he has for his own organization. Pastor Jean teaches the value of giving, community, and education to every child under his roof by providing community work outside his walls. After leaving Haiti in August, I knew I needed to establish a relationship with LaPhare and the Pastor. I have a similar vision and mission for children as I witness in Pastor Jean. I saw a man who made an impact on children and his community. He was a beacon of purposeful living and doing great work in his neighborhood. This to me was the same vision we have with Taking Shape.

One of the amazing events I got to be a part of during my December visit, was a community holiday party that LaPhare orphanage holds for all of the children in the neighborhood. It was like no other! The preparation involved was tedious. Haitian women helped the Pastor’s wife cook up meals of chicken and red beans and rice for over 300 young children. The meal was prepared outside in an 8x8 concrete slab hut with two self standing rod iron burners lit underneath by charcoal. It was very hot this day but these women never complained. They made enough food for over 300 kids with no electricity, no running water and no air conditioning. The version of “work ethic” took on a new meaning to me after witnessing these Haitian women!

In the meantime as the food was being prepared, several activities were being orchestrated to entertain the children in their neighboring small, yet pristine LaPhare church where the party was held. Children performed skits, dances and sang songs under the supervision of the teachers of LaPhare for several hours.  (Note: none of the children had cell phones. They were all present in the moment of playing, laughing and living life with each other without a phone in their hand! Amazing!) I found myself in awe of the work and dedication that everyone who is part of LaPhare orphanage had in organizing this event and giving back to their community. It was such an honor to be a part of this day!  Below is a video of children enjoying the party!

In developing my relationship with Pastor Jean, I have realized that his leadership and community outreach programs are in such alignment with the mission, culture, and values of Taking Shape. I feel a strong bond with this man; and a calling to work alongside him in producing experiences, opportunity, and inspiring leadership in the youth of our communities.

Since returning from my trip the end of December, we have set some short and long term goals for the Far platform of Taking Shape. Our short term goals are to continue to strengthen our partnership with LaPhare orphanage, work together in establishing leadership programs and organize summer dance and performing art camps for the children of LaPhare orphanage and other schools of the Port au Prince area.

Our long term goals are to aid in the building expansion of LaPhare orphanage, increasing the living quarter space for the children. In addition we will be supporting the continued growth and development of the school and a future mission trip is planned in  August 2018 where our Taking Shape STAR leaders will have the opportunity to travel to Haiti to teach summer dance and performing art camps. Taking Shape is also looking forward to future partnerships with other outreach programs in Haiti as we align ourselves with others of the same core values of raising young leaders who are make differences Here, Near and Far.

So many things to be eager about! Yet I feel an overwhelming sense of peace; as if the patient ways of Haitian life have encompassed me. The children of LaPhare orphanage have affected me in so many positive ways, teaching me to slow down, live in the moment, and have faith that everything will come together for the betterment of this world.

The visit in December to LaPhare gave me clarity. Clarity of what the purpose of Taking Shape is all about. It is a development of partnerships with other like minded leaders whose purpose is to foster mutual understanding, respect and community awareness that lead to making a difference in the world. Whether we are Here in Carrollton Missouri, Near in our surrounding communities or in a Far country in the Western Hemisphere; our Taking Shape mission and vision is the same; to develop young leaders who can make a difference Here, Near, and Far.  The future holds exciting opportunities for Taking Shape. We thank your for your prayers, volunteer work, and donations to continue our mission.

Tracey L Wozny/Executive Director Taking Shape

To learn more about our programs visit our Taking Shape Website
Me and the Pastors Wife, Mrs Dieugrand

Myself, Pastor Jean Dieugrand, my brother

The children and teachers of Laphare orphanage
300 meals of chicken, rice and beans
Beautiful Haitian women making food for 300 children of the community 

Taking Shape built a roof to protect the "Chicken Shack" 

Children enjoying the party